DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Saint Peter
“O fellow diners on The Blesséd Lamb,
both Food and Host – Host who makes sure each guest
is satisfied, will never hunger more! 3
God’s Grace permits this man to drink with us
before his death returns him to our feast.
He thirsts for highest truth. Please let him drink!” 6
Thus pled my loving Beatrice. These souls
then moved like comets turning round fixed poles
or wheels within a clock, the innermost 9
so slow they did not seem to turn at all,
while outer ones so whirled they seemed to fly.
I gazed amazed at wheeling meteors, 12
fast, horizontal, vertical and slow,
a dancing revolutionary choir
with one whose vivid flame outshone the rest. 15
Nearing, it spun three times round Beatrice
singing a song too sweet for memory,
nor will I try to make my pen describe 18
a vision that no artist could depict.
The fiery soul stopped circling her and said,
“O holy sister who can pray so well, 21
your loving nature draws me to your side.”
Said she, “O guardian of Heaven’s keys,
admit my lover to the height he craves. 24
I believe you will find him fit for it.”
Good students do not speak till masters ask.
Gathering my wits I waited to reply. 27
“Good Christian, what is faith?” said He.
I looked to Beatrice, whose glance told me
the time had come to pour my learning out. 30
“May the grace letting me confess my faith
to the twelve apostles’ chief make my words
worthy of my thought,” Said I. “It was you 33
who, helped by the pen of Paul, ordered Rome
along the path to Paradise. Faith is
reality of what we hope to see, 36
with reason for the things we’ve not yet seen.
These are faith’s substance, so it seems to me.”
“Yes, both are essences of faith,” said he. 39
“Why put reason after reality?
Desire before convincing argument?”
Said I, “Up here great truths are clear to us, 42
truths that to mortal eyes appear obscure.
We cannot always see that God is good.
Faith in Him cannot always reason out 45
proof in all cases that He does things well.
Argument later must establish this.”
He said, “If arguers below knew that 48
no wordsmiths could confuse the faithful with
such useless reasoning.” Peter added,
“Have you sincerely taken that to heart? 51
It is not parroted?” “These thoughts are mine,”
I said, “new minted coins of gold, not worn,
not clipped.” He asked, “How did you come to meet 54
Beatrice, this gem who inspires your faith?”
Said I, “The Holy Ghost, speaking in Old
and New Testaments made me recognize 57
Beatrice at first sight.” “How do you know,”
said he, “the miracles to which these books
testify are true?” Said I, “One miracle 60
they worked convinces me: The Kirk of Christ.
That it is built by super-human hands
is shown by how it still stands, propagates 63
the Word of Christ despite perverted priests.
That miracle proves God is real and good,
His scriptures true for they took root among 66
the persecuted poor. You were of these,
and crucified like Jesus, yet that vine spread,
converted Rome’s Empire, a miracle 69
besides which all but one in scriptures are
less than a hundredth part, but surely prove
Christ’s resurrection true.” I said no more, 72
whereupon that whole great sphere resounded
through its circles by singing the mighty
anthem Glory to God in the Highest. 75
After that my noble examiner
began again: “What you have said is right,
so now declare exactly your beliefs 78
and where you get them from.” “Father,” I said,
“I believe what you believe when you ran
to overtake younger feet at Christ’s tomb, 81
and knew that he had risen from the dead.
I believe in one eternal God who,
unmoved, moves all by His loving desire. 84
My proofs are in philosophy, moral
and natural, and in the deeds and words
of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms 87
and you, after the Pentecostal fire
gave you the gift of tongues. And I believe
in the Three Eternal Persons who are 90
One Being, threefold, reconciling both
He is and They are, a Divinity
stamped in me often by the gospel text, 93
I believe this spark in me is growing
to a star that will shine in Paradise.”
Increasing brightness signified his glee. 96
Excellent teachers will at times embrace
students who show they learned their lesson well.
The apostolic light spun thrice round me
to show again that what I said was right. 100